Paper: Philadelphia Inquirer, The (PA) Title: GROUP HAS WARNING ON CULTS Date: April 10, 1988
Fran Jason's 29-year-old epileptic daughter, Nancy, a follower of the Divine Light Mission group, has been missing since 1977.
Rudy Arkin says the Hare Krishnas "deceptively captured" the mind of his son Glenn. A college senior at American University then, Glenn has been missing for 27 months.Four years ago, Nancy Lauble snatched back her 24-year-old son, Joe. He was ''no more than a little slave" who wore saffron robes and shaved his head and whose daily tasks consisted of bringing in money and recruiting new members, Lauble says. "Now, he is just coming back into the mainstream of life again."
These three parents are volunteers for the Cult Awareness Network (CAN), a nonprofit, grass-roots organization with affiliates in 32 states that aims to educate the public about the harmful effects of mind control used by cults.
The group, which met here late last month, is lobbying Congress to support a resolution declaring the week of Nov. 13 as National Cult Awareness Week. That week was selected partly to mark the 10th anniversary of the tragedy in Jonestown, Guyana, where 913 followers of Jim Jones' People's Temple died by suicide and murder on Nov. 18, 1978, after drinking cyanide-laced punch that Jones apparently had ordered them to take.
Patricia Ryan - the daughter of Rep. Leo Ryan (D., Calif.), who was shot to death that day as he led a fact-finding tour to Jonestown - is a member of the CAN advisory board.
"Our visits to congressmen (to lobby for the resolution) helped tremendously. The cult groups have thought of everything in their power to keep us from expressing our views to Congress, but not one of our members backed down," says Ryan, a member of CAN for five years.
"If the resolution passes, it will allow us to organize (educational) activities on local and state levels," she says.
When the public hears about cults, "they think it's somebody else's crazy kids. They don't want to know about it," says Lauble, vice president of the local affiliate here. "But when it's your kid, it hits home."
CAN estimates that up to five million people are involved with the 2,500 groups in the United States it considers to be cults. CAN focuses its attention on "destructive cults" that it says recruit members deceptively and keep them by using manipulative thought-reform or mind-control techniques.
CAN says these groups alter the personality and behavior of recruits. In the "destructive cults," CAN asserts, the leaders become all-powerful and establish a value system with little regard for society's laws, ethics or morals.
Often, leaders disguise the groups as churches, Bible study groups, self- improvement seminars or self-realization retreats, CAN maintains. Their goal is for the recruit to become increasingly active until he believes in the cult's goals so strongly that he sacrifices his freedom, personality, money, career, family and health to fulfill the cult's goals.
Groups that CAN has received complaints about include: the Unification Church, Hare Krishnas, The Way International, Scientology, Transcendental Meditation, Black Hebrews, The Forum, Divine Light Mission, Body of Christ, Family of Love, ECK, Faith Assembly, Ramtha, Alive Polarity and the Satanism/ Ritualistic cults.
Most of those who attended the three-day conference were middle-to-older- age parents of past and present cult members. In addition to lobbying, the conferees participated in panel discussions on such topics as legal tools for stopping cult activities, cults' increasing influence in politics and updates on shepherding, satanism and behavioral training programs that CAN says many corporations are subscribing to.
Jason describes her daughter Nancy as a bright child, "always scoring in the 98 percentile" on standardized tests. A freshman art major at a Maryland junior college, she moved out of her home and joined the Divine Light Mission in Maryland. "She became a recorded message, always talking about love and peace. It was perfect nonsense. No logic," Jason says.
"I respected her right to choose," she says. "I didn't know what (the group) was. Who knew? You respect your children and allow them to explore things for themselves."
"We just want to provide educational materials to people so they can begin to understand what this is all about," Jason says, "and let people make up their own minds."
"Cults are powerful now, they have so much money," Lauble says. "But we intend to fight them with the Xerox machine and postage meter."
Arkin, president of the local affiliate here, says, "It's like David battling Goliath. If we keep practicing with our slingshot, maybe we'll hit them with a pebble between the eyes."